Family Moab

Family Moab
In Arches National Park

Wednesday, July 31, 2013


Shame - (n) a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety. - Merriam - Webster

I had a few "hunh??!" reactions to my last post so felt the need to clarify. In the conversation where I let myself vent and get judgmental, the topic at hand was adult behavior at school that had shamed students. I react strongly to these behaviors because 'shame' is a buzzword for me and for my personality style (enneagram type 3, if anyone is checking). At a retreat I attended during my first year of training for spiritual direction, the Sisters sent all of us 3's to a table where a piece of computer paper was turned upside-down. When they gave the instruction to reveal the word or phrase on the underside of the paper, I turned ours over to see the word 'shame.' I'll never forget the leap taken by my heart rate, or the blood that raced to my cheeks. I actually reached over and turned it back upside down with trembling fingers.  Other groups had different words that triggered them, but I can't remember anything except 'shame.'

I have only vague suspicions about the circumstances that led me to feel so ashamed or guilty about my shortcomings. One aspect of my childhood that led to shame was the Catholic Church and the traditional catechism I received. I felt extremely conscious of all my ill-conceived acts and deeds as a child, and though I successfully hid many of them, my guilt and shame grew in proportion to the cover-up. As an oldest child with my personality type, the feeling rarely went away completely. The instruction I had as a six and seven-year-old hide inside me to this day, and I still feel that "painful emotion" whenever I screw up.

And I do screw up. I have no right to judge another person's behavior, though I am emphatically against shaming children. When it is done in public it is even more reprehensible. As I am finding in the midst of my mid-life crisis, emotions and situations that scar us as children inevitably mold us through life. I don't feel that shame is necessarily helpful, though I pulled the definition from an editorial in this morning's paper which discussed Anthony Weiner's behavior, and begged him to get acquainted with the feeling of shame. The author, Leonard Pitts, Jr of The Miami Herald, said " It gets a bad rap but a little shame is a good thing now and again. It will keep you from making an ass of yourself. Or, if you already have, it'll keep you from repeating the mistake."  Maybe that is true for adults, but let's keep our shaming mitts off the kids. Life is hard enough for most of us without that extra painful jab; with the exception of Anthony Weiner we already know when we've made an ass of ourselves.

Sunday, July 28, 2013


On Friday we had dinner with some friends and I got myself into a nice little tizzy. We were talking about our kids, so genuine emotion crept in, and shortly thereafter I found myself venting strong opinions. I quite enjoyed this and forayed further into indignation, which was somewhat addictive, and led into a touch of self-righteousness and even judgment on others involved. Shortly after, I felt a moral bloat akin to the gaseous kind I used to get when eating too much dessert from the Cheesecake Factory. Also a bitter kind of aftertaste amid the knowledge that I do live in a glass house and have no merit on which to throw stones. 

The highs of the discussion felt like the rush of any semi-forbidden or self-indulgent activity. Stepping out on a limb, revealing a private experience, feeling like  a dragon who moved her tail to reveal a luscious bit of hidden treasure, but who threatens to move it back again, or just burn the whole house down if she feels like it. I was shocked afterward that I even enjoyed a moment of it, but I shouldn't be.

It's exciting to play with fire and live a tiny bit on the edge. I've been trying to live cautiously since recovery commenced and mostly it serves me well, but sometimes it's boring. I usually am happy to power-walk but sometimes I just want to run. The diet usually makes sense and I am so grateful for my happy stomach that I stick to dried seaweed and plantain chips, but sometimes, damn it!, I want real pizza, chips, guacamole and salsa, ice cream and chocolate. Mostly I aim to breathe in and out and appreciate the present moment but sometimes  I want to dream big, feel the rush and the passion of planning a big race or a daring adventure. 

The question of how to combine Zen calmness and a passion for life is a big one. One thing I know is that self-righteous indignation has no place. It's a poor substitute for the real rush, and I'll have to do better.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Cruise Control

Have the speed set at 78 mph thanks to speeding warning outside of Butte, Montana, where I was clocked going 83 mph. Montana did not even have speed limits until the last decade or two, so I was somewhat affronted. The officer was certainly kind enough to give me a warning in place of a ticket, and when he handed Rob the piece of paper he mentioned that we were free to either "frame it or throw it away." Hmmm, tough choice.

After many hours without cell service, internet connections, rest stops, even a blade of green grass  (can you say, Wyoming?) we are nearing Cheyenne and the Colorado border. If it were not for the fact that two of the finest women I know come from Wyoming I would be ready to pitch the entire state. The kids are bickering and tempers short, but it has been a glorious trip, complete with new playlist (AWOL Nation, Fall Out Boy and Grace Potter) and a catalog of gleaming memories.

We are all eager to be home, see friends, resume yoga classes and playdates, and sleep in our own beds. But driving into the highly populated area of Denver metro always comes as a shock. We get accustomed to the open spaces and broad vistas of the mountain states, where a traffic jam takes 5 extra minutes instead of 50 and a crowd at the cherry festival in Polson looks like an uncrowded morning at the Lone Tree farmer's market. Lots of bright, interesting people retire to these out-of-the way areas, folks with little ego, less to prove, and a love for God's creation. As we cross the border back to 'civilization' we blow a backward kiss and promise to rejoin them soon.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Blind Eagles and Daring Stunts

We're driving back to Polson after an amazing two-day stay at my uncle's cabin on Georgetown Lake. Uncle Bob and Aunt Marlene hosted a non-stop, fun-filled weekend of mountain activities, including four-wheelers, motorboat rides, jet skis, paddle boats, and inner tubing behind aforementioned motorboat. Quieter sports like fishing and baby-watching were also available. Everywhere I turned I saw a memory I wanted to hold on to, moments so tender and emotional that their essence could never be captured in a photograph; Rob throwing long passes to my brother Michael, my sister Karen consoling my nephew Mac after he was terrorized by the evil four-pound puppy, Lucky, my father racing up and down the drive on a four-wheeler with a gleeful Daniel on his lap, baby Joey trying on everyone's sunglasses and nodding merrily all day long.

We saw wildlife, too; snowshoe hairs, red-necked grebes with their wheezy, laughing call, bald eagles diving for fish and swooping over our heads on a four-wheeler excursion, deer and trout that stubbornly refused to be caught. Bald eagles we have taken to calling 'blind eagles' after Daniel read a sign in the Tetons and mistakenly substituted blind for bald. We also have bald eagles back in Polson at my folks' place; last week I took Aden and William swimming in the shallow bay close to home and saw one at close range looking for dinner. We swam about 500 meters out and back - and the kids were terrified. I found it hard to comprehend that these children, who endlessly called me to go faster on the jet skis and went wildly tubing without care, were horrified by the muddy bottom and cold water of Flathead Lake. I redeemed myself in their eyes by tubing twice, as Bob tried to pull me across his wake time after time and nearly dislocated my shoulder with some wild air.

After a quick stop at the CostCo in Missoula for supplies we will head back to see my brother John and his family for two quick days. I feel so blessed to have seen all my siblings on this trip; James made a special business trip out from San Francisco to catch us all at the beginning of the week and Karen has been here the whole time, as well as Mike and Pam and their two darling kiddos. It makes for cramped sleeping (our kids were out in the camper trailer the last two nights) but oh, so much joy. Safe travels - we will see you soon!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Midsummer Fights Gleam

Hot, hot, hot. Colorado summer is in full bloom and the kids are getting on each other's nerves. For better or worse, we are busy this week with two full days of swimming prelims and preparations for our road trip to Montana. We had a fun weekend, though, heading up to the mountains for a music festival in Idaho Springs. Daniel and Luke entertained each other by throwing peanuts into each other's mouths and Aden, Heidi and I hula-hooped and danced into the evening. Sunday saw me back in open water for a swim at Grant Ranch. Technically, it was a race, though I am still under a self-imposed moratorium on racing.

I've been trying to do some reading and return to taking notes and making observations, a habit that I fell out of the past few weeks. My daughter inspired me anew and hopefully one day she will let me post her lovely poetry here.  I'm going to put one of my new pieces below, then head upstairs to break up a free-for-all Nerf war. Love to all -

After All

Lose your mind
Come to your senses.
Hear the truth -
The mind is a good servant
But a bad master.
Release your thoughts,
Watch them whirl skyward.
Sunrise caught on the
Underside of hawk's wing.
Feel the mystery,
Touch the code in the ascent
Then break it with your teeth.
Taste the bitter and the sweet,
Diagnose the dis-ease.
Now, let go. Be at peace.
It's only life, after all.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Water the Flowerness

"If we practice the art of mindful living together, we see that the other person, like us, has both flowers and compost inside, and we accept this. Our practice is to water the flowerness in her, and not bring her more garbage."  - Thich Nhat Hanh, Your True Home

Just a thought for the day from my Buddhist guru, as the brilliant sun alternates with forceful rain here in Centennial.The lawn and flowers adore this watering, and I try to mimic its helpful effects indoors by watering the flowerness of the children with kind words instead of harsh, attention instead of focusing elsewhere. I've already failed at this many times today, but will keep trying.

I had a physical last week and found out that my lungs and muscle strength, along with my weight, have returned to normal (ie before illness, or BI). My circulation is OK, which comes as a relief since my heart is not. My BI heart was aged 28 and athletic, while my current heart looks to be between 45 and 50 years old and not super fit. I can feel the difference so am not surprised, but still it was a blow. My liver, adrenals and digestive tract also have more healing to do. So I am going to focus my healing thoughts and efforts on these areas and would welcome prayers in the same line! I am going to water the flowerness inside, and not bring more garbage.

My therapist asked me to consider the thought that perhaps  my heart has aged due to an increase in wisdom, experience, and use. That's a nice reversal of the story line, but I still would rather it was an experienced 30+ year old heart instead of a 50-year-old specimen.

Lastly, a bit of news.  Daniel's baseball season is over. Despite excellent coaching and cheering, the team fell 11-0 in their last game and the other team invoked the "mercy rule."  Not a stellar way to go out but the kiddos didn't mind - they still got their snacks.  And Aden will not allow me to publish her poetry online. I am only allowed to email poems to select individuals. If you would like to view these amazing epistles, please let me know.